By Paul Ellis, President of the ECHPOA, updated 5/19/2019.
Tatum-Reese Development Corporation purchased property “with all water rights” near Bailey Colorado, in about 1970, to begin the development of Elk Creek Highlands and Meadows subdivisions. On October 23, 1972, Tatum – Reese expressed a “commitment” … “to deed to the Association any and all water rights in Elk Creek”. In 1973, board members of the ECHPOA purchased Outlot A (2.4 acres with the pond and Church Fork Creek) and Outlot B (18.07 acres with Elk Creek, the association building, and the horse corral) for unpaid taxes. Tatum-Reese Development Corporation, the company that developed our community, had gone bankrupt and failed to pay taxes on the properties. I have not been able to find any water rights associated with the deeds for Outlot A, B or the entire community.
In October 2016 Tim Buckley, the District 80 Water Commissioner, informed us that our well permit was not in compliance for use by the corral and that we must augment the pond water lost to evaporation which is required by state law. He instructed us to first work on transporting water for the horses and installing a flow meter on the association well. After that, he said we must begin working on the pond improvements to become compliant with state water laws. If we did not he would place a lock on our well and we would be forced to drain the pond. We again met with Tim in August 2017 and our progress, as described below, was acknowledged and future goals were established. We continue to measure and record weekly water usage in the association building, pond water height, and amount of water purchased for the corral. This information is then sent to Tim on a monthly basis.
In November 2016 the corral boarders began purchasing and hauling water in 50 gallon barrels from the Bailey Water & Sanitation District public spigot for $.25 per 10 gallons. In January 2017 the association purchased 2 x 500 gallon water tanks for corral water storage. In March 2017 a water flow meter was installed on the well pump to keep track and report water usage in the association building. In April 2017 the association purchased a 275 gallon water tank to increase hauling capacity. In May 2017 hoses and fittings continued to be improved. In July 2017 the association purchased a second 275 gallon water tank.
In November 2016 we also began looking for natural springs that feed Church Fork Creek, water rights, and measured the pond to be 1.25 acres. In February 2017, after drilling through 18 inches of ice, we measured the water depth of the pond to be 12 feet. In July 2017 a staff gauge was installed at the outlet of the pond to keep track and report water levels. In August 2017 we began researching the cost of augmentation water. Headwater Authority of the South Platte (HASP) estimated $30,000 per acre foot, and we could loose up to 2 acre feet per year. Therefore, if we want to purchase water, using a one time fee, the water alone will cost $77,650. In addition we must measure, record, and report the water into and out of the pond. Installing mechanical water measuring equipment will cost about $6,150. Logging and reporting water measurements will cost about $10,850. Making the cost for the entire project, required by the District 80 Water Commissioner to come into compliance with state water law, will be about $94,650. Leasing the water, using an annual fee, would cost about 10% of the purchase fee, or $7,765 each and every year. We needed to identify how we could fund this huge expense as it is obvious that our current annual income and fixed expenses would make it impossible to pay for.
We “brain stormed” ideas to increase our cash flow in order to support saving our pond. In October 2017 we mailed out postcards asking for support from all 360 ECHPOA property owners. We sent emails to our 70+ paid members and posted articles on this blog asking for donations and support letters. In December 2017 continued to send emails to our members and posted update articles. In January 2018 we sent a second postcard to all 360 ECHPOA property owners. We sent emails to 119 current and previous ECHPOA members who had joined in 2014, 2015, 2016, or 2017 but had not yet paid in 2018 and still owned property in the Elk Creek Highlands or Meadows subdivisions. In December 2018 we sent a third postcard to all 364 ECHPOA property owners. So far we have received $7,183.00 in donations from 42 community members, $2,000.00 donation from the Colorado Division of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA), $800.00 secured from the ECHPOA budget that had been earmarked for Save Our Pond, and about 25 support letters. Giving us a total of $9,983.00 in our Save Our Pond Donation fund! On February 9, 2019 we launched a fundraising website hosted by In Our Back Yard (IOBY), https://www.ioby.org/project/save-our-pond, to raise enough money to purchase equipment that will measure pond water levels and flow, and then send the data collected to the Colorado Division of Water Resources. We sent emails to 88 current and previous ECHPOA members who had joined in 2017, 2018, or 2019 and posted and article on the blog announcing our website launch. Currently, we have $720.00 in website pledges. To see a growing list of everyone who sent a money donation, and / or support letter, go to the Save Our Pond Supporters page under the Fishing Pond menu option above.
In October 2017 we began renting the main floor of the association building on a monthly basis to increase our income ($300/month plus utilities). In December we began researching the possibility of remodeling the building to add a shower and walk-in closet and to be able to increase monthly income rate. By January 2018 we had received 4 written and 2 verbal plumbing, electrical, and general contractor estimates for the remodel. It took about 2 months and several trips to Fairplay to find and pull together all the required documents, drawings, create a floor plan, and draw up a plat that was required to be submitted with our building permit application. The building permit application was notarized on March 3, Doug Tamminga submitted it on March 6, it was approved on March 19, and received in the mail on March 26. Both permits for plumbing and electrical had also been pulled in March. On March 20 Joe Morris generously donated and installed 5 storm windows to honor his wife, Paula, who passed away in December. This mountain community is made up of amazing people! Demolition of the second half bathroom began on March 22, but work stopped as they had a question with the sub-floor, the ceramic tile was pulled up on April 10. Herb Swindler added a shower base and washer box to rough in plumbing on April 12. Rough plumbing was inspected and approved in April. Simon Lawson relocated the bathroom lighting in both bathrooms and roughed in laundry circuits on May 1. Plans to replace the breaker switches during the week of May 7 had to be postponed until ordered parts had arrived. Jasen Nelson brought in boards to frame the closet and backer board for the shower walls on May 17. We were notified that the parts for the new breaker box finally came in on May 21. Outside wall outlet was relocated, closet was framed, carpet removed, electric wiring and light for closet were installed on May 23 . Breaker box and building meter was replaced and drywall between bathrooms was removed on May 24. Rough electrical was inspected and approved on June 5. Framing was inspected and approved on June 26. Jasen began hanging drywall for the new walls during the week of July 2. After some scheduling delays, Jasen and Alyia Carter textured and painted the walls during the week of July 30. Jasen leveled the floor with cement mud around the shower during the week of August 6. On August 11 Jasen was replaced by Andrew Lako who has more experience with showers and tile work. Simon covered the electric outlets and added an outside outlet on the east side of the building during the week of August 13. Andrew started working on August 24 and had the shower stall completed and ready to use by August 28! Including new cement walls and support boards, re-leveling shower pan, wall tile, glass shower stall, and shower fixtures! Due to prior commitments, Andrew could not work on the remodel again until September 11. During that next week Andrew laid tile for the shower floor and laundry closet floor, 3 door jam/trim 2 with doors hung, 5 window jam/trim and baseboards. On October 10 Andrew installed an exhaust fan/ceiling light above the shower, new light fixture about the bathroom sink, and the track lights that had been donated last year in the kitchen. During the week of October 16 Alyia finished the texture and painting. The final electrical inspection was done and approved on October 25. The final plumbing inspection was done and approved on November 7. The monthly rent was increased to $700 per month plus utilities beginning November 1, 2018. On November 19 we were told we needed to install a septic effluent filter before the final building inspection could be scheduled. Shirley Septic installed the filter on November 21. December 3 our first final building inspection was performed. There were three items that needed to be finished before approval; carbon monoxide detectors need to be installed both upstairs and down, and metal tubing needs to be added to vent dryer in closet to the outside. Eric Whitcomb and Kristin Barber installed a combo carbon monoxide/smoke detector upstairs during the last week of December. Eric and I installed the dryer vent on January 20, 2019 and I installed the carbon monoxide detector downstairs. Finally, the second final building inspection was performed and approved on January 28, 11 months after the permit was submitted!
During the November 2017 association meeting a motion was made and approved for Park County residents outside of the ECHPOA community to have access to our pond after buying an annual permit which includes two fishing badges for $100.00, limited to 200 permits. ECHPOA members with fishing badges will still pay $65.00. January 2018 we began offering Park County annual fishing permits. Unfortunately, annual sales to Park County residents were not as high as anticipated. In May 2019 it was decided to reduce the price to $30 per fishing badge, with the first badge being free for Park County first responders.
The above ideas will significantly increase our cash flow. However, none of these ideas will get us the income needed to purchase water at the one time fee level. We also discussed applying for a loan and selling part of the association property, both being an undesirable option and could have a negative impact on our association as a whole. It was decided that our next best option would be to work on obtaining grant money.
Our first grant application was submitted on October 20, 2017, to the Park County Land and Water Trust Fund Board (LWTFB). We gave an oral presentation on November 1st. The LWTFB recommended to the Park County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) that they give us $50,000 but hold the grant for up to 2 years – until we get other partners (grants) to provide the rest of the money. We gave a second oral presentation on November 16 to the BCC and they were scheduled to make a decision to approve or deny our application on November 22. However, there were only 2 commissioners present at that meeting and we were given the option to wait until all 3 were present and we accepted. With only 2 commissioners one might vote no and the other vote yes, making it a tie, and with a tie they declare the motion “not approved.” Waiting will give us a better chance of our grant being approved. We were rescheduled for December 7, moved to December 14, and then “cancelled until a later date.” Late December, County Commissioner Mike Brazell contacted us to let us know we needed to get other grant partners before coming back to meet with the Board. We will let you know as soon as we hear of a reschedule date. Meeting will begin at 9:30 am, 501 Main Street, in Fairplay, CO.
In January 2018 we submitted a partnership application to the Platte Canyon Community Partnership (PCCP) Resale Boutique. In February we were notified that our Boutique application was declined because we did “not meet our requirement of benefitting the entire (Park County) community.” In February I also contacted El Pomar and was told their grant applications are only for Teller and Douglas counties. On March 13 I received an optimistic reply from Sally McIntyre, the Colorado Division of the Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) Board Member. IWLA is a conservation group that I had been a member of in the past. We were hoping to hear back from Sally in April after their monthly Colorado Board meeting where they were to discuss possibly matching our donated funds. On May 21 Sally contacted me to explain that there had been a death in the family which understandably was the cause of the delay, however, she would try and get a decision from the board as soon as she could. On June 25 I received notification from Sally that the Colorado Division of the Izaak Walton League of American approved a $2,000 donation to help Save Our Pond, and we received their donation letter and check on July 1, 2018. Very exciting to obtain our first grant partnership! On March 17, 2018 we had met with Steve Murphy of the Harris Park Metropolitan District, our nearest neighboring municipality and as recommended by Tim Buckley the District 80 Water Commissioner, to begin a discussion on possibly forming a partnership to utilize our assets towards solving both of our water issues as they already have water rights and augmentation water. We are still waiting to hear back after they discuss the details with their lawyer. On April 3 I sent a summary of our pond conservation project to the Colorado Water Conservation Board in hopes that they will begin a grant process with us. I also sent it to Tim Buckley, the District 80 Water Commissioner, to document our progress. On April 7 I received an optimistic reply from Jackie Edwards, President of the West Denver Trout Unlimited (WDTU). WDTU is a group that I had been a member of in the past. Unfortunately, after speaking with his Board, it was decided that they want to concentrate only with Clear Creek water. I then contacted Cutthroat Chapter Trout Unlimited (CCTU) which is based in Littleton and involved with South Platte River conservation projects. We had hoped to have a better connection with CCTU as our Elk Creek water eventually does flow into the South Platte. I was contacted on May 20 by CCTU asking that I present our grant partnership proposal at their next monthly meeting held on June 5, which I did. Unfortunately, I received written notification the next day stating that their mission statement included only cold water streams and not private organizations, therefore they would have to decline our request for a grant partnership with them. We will continue to work on obtaining other partners (grants) that might provide additional money, such as Ducks Unlimited and The Forest Service. We are currently looking for one or two more organizations that would also be interested in contributing to our cause and fulfilling the “partners” requirement of our grant application with the LWTFB and BCC.
We will continue looking into obtaining a 501(c)(3), tax exempt status, which would help eliminate our property taxes and save the association about $1,100 a year. We are also looking into reinstating our 501(c)(7), tax exempt status for social non-profit organizations, as it had been revoked in 2010 for not filing a Form 990-series return for 3 consecutive years.
We are currently brain storming on ideas for fund raisers and we continue to accept donation money and support letters. (Click on text link to learn where to send and what to write.) Your support will help Save Our Pond. If all 360 property owners in the Elk Creek Highlands and Meadows subdivisions would donate just $111 each, one time only, we would achieve the total amount LWTFB and BCC is asking us to provide! In kind volunteer hours will also count towards the total needed.
If we are unable to secure enough money to purchase augmentation water and are forced to drain the pond, we will work toward reintroducing beavers to the wetland area below the pond where Church Fork Creek and Elk Creek come together. In September 2013 about 16 inches of rain fell in 6 days, and with that amount of water rushing down Elk Creek, the wetland area was flooded, numerous beaver dams were breached, and our largest beaver pond was emptied. The beavers disappeared and there has not been a full beaver pond on our property since. If beavers create a pond, we do not have to pay to augment the water lost to evaporation. In July 2016 Mark Beardsley, EcoMetrics LLC, along with 2 representatives from the US Fish and Wildlife Services performed a steam assessment of our association property. In May 2017 Jeff Ravage, North Fork Watershed Coordinator, Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) performed a wetland assessment for possible beaver relocation. In June 2017 Sherri Tippie, beaver specialist, along with Chris Canipe and Aaron Hall, Friends of the Wildlife and the Sierra Club performed a wetland assessment and gave a presentation on her 35 years experiences in relocating whole beaver families. In August 2017 Ted Stein continued researching obstacles we will face in preparing our wetland area and getting approval to reintroduce beavers to our property. On January 4, 2019 we were again contacted by Mark Beardsley asking if ECHPOA would be interested in participating in their Riparian Reconnect grant project in which their main mission is to restore streams and riparian areas. On January 16 we were contacted by Cheryl Cufre, Director of Land Stewardship, who also stated they would be interested in working with us on this project. Because the beavers have not returned to the wetlands on the ECHPOA property, it is a perfect candidate for this project. On January 31 we participated in a conference call with Cheryl and Joel Nystrom, Stewardship Specialist and GIS Manager, to discuss the possibility of working together. We expressed our interest in restoring our wetlands, signed and sent a letter of support to them. On February 1 Colorado Open Lands submitted a $40,000 grant application to Colorado Water Conservation Board. On April 25 Cheryl informed us that they had received 2 grants, the second one being from Park County Land and Water Trust Fund Board (LWTFB)! Their estimate to complete the full project will cost $51,700 to repair 10 beaver dams. For our community commitment, they are asking us to contribute $10,000 of this cost which could be either in cash or in-kind. Any labor we contribute would be at an in-kind rate of $50 per hour which comes out to about 200 hours. For an example; it would be 10 hours each if we had 20 volunteers. They would like to start this project as soon as July! The next step would be executing a couple of contracts that would allow them to do this work on our property.
All of this work has taken many, many volunteer hours to perform! I would like to thank Tim Bradley, Sarah Bowman, Amy Bryne, Jeff DeBerry, Doug Druliner, Karen Ellis, Mike Felix, Lynda James, Ed Montgomery, Joe Morris, Bryan Murphy, Doug Tamminga, Ted Stein, Dale and Walt Wark, and apologize for anyone I missed.
We will continue to update this page as we make progress.